Frequently Asked Questions: Media Interests

Q. What is the difference between resale, consignment and Not For Profit stores?

While all shops that sell gently-used consumer goods are "resale" shops, NARTS makes the distinctions as follows.

A resale shop is the phrase most often used for stores that buy their merchandise outright from individual owners. A consignment or Not For Profit shop can also be called a resale shop, but ONLY a store that actually consigns their inventory can be called a consignment store.

A Not For Profit shop is run by an IRS designated 501(c)3 organization to raise money to fund their charitable causes. These range from the large Salvation Army / Goodwill chains to individual shops run by schools, churches or hospital. Not For Profits can obtain goods through donations or they could operate on a consignment basis—some do both. Not For Profit shops are also referred to as thrift shops. 

A consignment shop accepts merchandise on a consignment basis, paying the owners of the merchandise a percentage when and if the items are sold. The majority of such shops pay the owners from 40 to 60% of the selling price, and have a policy of displaying goods anywhere from 30 to 90 days, although there are a wide range of policies across the country. Some consignment shops also purchase a variety of items outright from individual owners and/or wholesalers.

Q. How fast is the resale industry growing?

As consumer interest in resale increases, more and more people are opting to open their own resale shops—resulting in an industry growth of approximately 7% a year. This percentage reflects the estimated number of new stores opening each year, minus the businesses that close. NARTS is proud to say that future owners who look to the Association for education prior to opening, then continue their education through NARTS membership, are very successful. Many resale shops don't survive that critical first year because the owners did not do their "homework" and had no idea where to begin or what expect.

Q. To what do you attribute the increased growth & popularity of the resale industry?

There are numerous reasons for the growing popularity of resale. One is the public's increased awareness of recycling. People would rather consign, sell or donate their unwanted or unneeded items than add to the waste stream. Consignors and sellers make money by selling under loved items at our shops, without the expense, work, and bother of a tag or garage sale. By having a resale expert price, display and market their goods, sellers realize more income than if they attempted to do this themselves. Consumers who donate their goods to a Not For Profit thrift store benefit from the tax deduction. Eco-aware consumers would also rather purchase recycled articles in order to minimize their impact on our limited resources.

Increased consumer commitment to resale has resulted in new shops being opened throughout the country. NARTS members have also been expanding and opening additional locations. Some members are increasing their space to include specialty categories such as bridal, plus size, teens, sporting goods or furniture. A number of clothing stores have opened additional locations for furniture only... one of the fastest growing segments of the resale industry.

Of course, one of the foremost reasons for the ever increasing popularity of resale is very simple... People LOVE a BARGAIN! The public is also keenly aware that resale shopping means higher quality for less money. In the recent years of economic flux, when people watched their retirement accounts dwindle, resale shopping attracted even more consumers. A new breed of shopper has discovered resale and is taking advantage of the values found in both purchasing and consigning or selling gently-used items. Today's consumer is economical and has many places to spend their money. They would rather buy clothing, accessories and furniture for a third to fourth of the original price—leaving money for other things in life; such as, vacations, saving for their children's college educations, investing for the future, funding retirement accounts, and being able to enjoy their hobbies. Some shoppers are choosing to spend their money on experiences...such as travel, dining out or entertainment rather than on consumer goods.

Resale shopping has become a favorite pastime for many consumers. Savvy shoppers are allured by The Thrill of the Hunt! There is always the customer who shops resale for the adventure of finding a wonderful bargain or unusual item. The designer suit, with new-store tags still attached, that sells for a tenth of its original price is not a myth... it happens every day. The room furnished completely in recycled style for less than $1,000 has even become commonplace. But the true gold mine is the constant savings resale shoppers realize every day, both in their personal budgets and in the reduction of waste by the recycling of gently-used good possessions. When people are trying to get more value for their money, resale is the natural choice. Resale offers the best of both worlds... the chance to SHOP & SAVE!

Q. What does NARTS do?

"NARTS provides the link for resale professionals to connect with their peers, and to learn how to prosper by running their businesses in a more professional manner," says Adele Meyer, Executive Director. "We offer education in meetings, networking and books available to members and non-members. Membership benefits include a monthly digital flipbook newsletter, discounts on meetings and books, and networking. All member stores are listed in the NARTS Shopping Guide... the largest online listing of resale shops. Another valuable membership benefit is our Facebook closed group, where members share their experiences, resources and ideas or seek advice or help from their peers. The Association actively seeks out media attention for our industry and promotes public awareness of the value of resale to consumers of all types. Our membership is open to individuals who are already in the industry as well as those in the process of opening a store."

Q. What three factors can spell success or failure for resale shop owners?

Education and Networking: Awareness of exactly what you are getting into, and the need for gaining and sharing knowledge. A person who opens up without educating themselves about the industry cannot succeed. Resale shop management is not as simple as the casual observer thinks. Without education on how to open and manage a resale business, new owners can quickly fail. NARTS strives to keep resale stores in business for the benefit of owners, shoppers, suppliers and the image of the industry.

Professionalism: Owners must realize that this is a retail business like any other and must be run as such. Professionalism is the key. Some prospective owners look upon resale as a way to open a shop with little or no inventory investment. What they don't realize is that their investment must take another form—an investment in education and professionalism is necessary for success. Resale cannot be run as a part time hobby; it takes time, effort and knowledge to succeed.

Public Awareness: NARTS teaches members how to advertise, market and publicize their individual businesses. NARTS also actively seeks recognition of resale as a vital segment of retail in the media across the country.

Q. What segment of resale is experiencing the most growth?

Furniture is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry right now. We are seeing more and more of our members either expanding an existing location to accommodate furniture or opening additional locations for furniture, home décor and household items. Many scenarios fuel the popularity of resale furniture stores. Newly married couples seeking quality furniture at a great price. Empty nesters moving from large family homes to smaller condos have furniture to consign, sell or donate. College students trying to furnish their dorm rooms or campus apartments on a shoestring budget. Career transfers often prompt people to sell some of their household possessions rather than pay high moving costs. Once relocated, the smart shoppers search out resale furniture stores as the best place to shop and save. And lastly, there is the frequent reminder of the great buys available in resale furniture stores on the popular cable television decorating shows.

Apparel stores which target a specific market are also gaining in popularity. Plus size stores are opening across the country. They are designed and staffed to cater to the needs of the "big & beautiful" customer. Other growing areas are teen and men's clothing. Since both teens and men are beginning to realize that there are wonderful values to be had, shops are adding or expanding their departments to capture these unique markets.

Many of today's teens were raised with baby equipment, toys and clothing from resale shops. It was just natural that once they began shopping on their own—with their own money—they would continue to shop resale. Teens have more expendable income than ever before, much of which they earn themselves... of course they are careful how they spend those hard-earned dollars. In addition to saving money and recycling, teens are attracted to the unique merchandise they find in resale shops. They have also become valued suppliers to the resale industry as they consign or sell their clothing in local shops.

Pre-owned sporting goods, music and computer-related items, too, are becoming popular resale shop offerings.

Q. How is the resale industry effected by eBay and online resale marketplaces?

Definitely in a positive way! eBay and online resale marketplaces have made the idea of resale even more mainstream. When people realize the bargains available by shopping for gently used items they flock to their local consignment, resale and thrift shops—a more secure and convenient way to shop resale. The brick and mortar experience is so helpful in shopping resale.... many people want to "see & touch" what they are purchasing. Resale clothing may have been altered, so trying it on determines if the garment is for you. When buying furniture, consumers like to see if a sofa or chair is comfortable and if it's well constructed. 

Q. How has the image of resale changed?

A few decades ago, people had an image of resale shops as being dark, musty, disorganized junk stores. It was not unusual to see a customer "hide" in the fitting room if a friend or neighbor walked in while they were shopping. People were ashamed to admit they shopped resale. Over the years a new image of resale has emerged and we have experienced a dramatic change in attitude toward this industry.

The stores are brightly lit, beautifully displayed, well organized and usually smell of potpourri or scented air fresheners. It is not unusual to go into a NARTS member store and see crystal chandeliers or track lighting, mirrored or slat walls, and often a comfortable seating area with magazines and refreshments. You will find the merchandise well organized and artfully displayed. Furniture stores arrange their merchandise in vignettes, giving you decorating ideas for your own homes. Apparel stores mix and match merchandise that may have come in from different consignors, offering unique ideas for a complete look. The most noticeable change we have experienced has been the change in attitude! People are PROUD to be shopping resale. They are savvy shoppers who love to save money, enjoy the unique items they find in resale shops, and savor sharing the "thrill of the hunt" with their friends and family.

Q. What do you foresee as the future of the resale industry?

Resale will continue to gain popularity and become an even more important segment of the retail industry. Word of mouth is constantly spreading the value and excitement of resaling as a fun, easy and friendly shopping experience. Today's shoppers are value conscious. Years ago, during the era of "conspicuous consumption," some liked to boost about how much they paid for something... today's consumer brags about how little they paid! Today's shoppers are also environmentally conscious, making recycled clothing and furnishings a hot commodity.

We also foresee more shops becoming aware of the need for continuing education in this industry to meet the competition they have from both other resale shops and discounters. This will result in more professional resale shops, and thus more selection and value for consumers. More resale shops are opening every week as people become interested in our industry as an inflation proof business in an unsettled economic climate.

Our Shopping Guide has the following articles of interest to reporters:

How to Shop Resale
How to Prepare Items for Resale
The Facts On Fakes!